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The Monkey Jacket
Red Blend 2016

"Winemaker Michael Cruse has taken the idea of the “Red Blend” and turned it into pure wizardry. While the phrase “California Red Blend” can be associated with conventional grocery outlet wine, he gives the concept an entirely new life."

    Let's get Technical

  • 12.84 %
  • 1.0 g/L
    Low Residual
  • 18 ppm
  • 48 ppm
  • 3.69
  • 5.28 g/L
Check out Wine Fellas Academy for more info on our chemistry panel.
  • Natural
  • Organic
  • Dry
  • Paleo
  • Vegan
  • Low

Winemaker Michael Cruse has taken the idea of the “Red Blend” and turned it into pure wizardry. While the phrase “California Red Blend” can be associated with conventional grocery outlet wine, he gives the concept an entirely new life. When we recently sat down to taste his new 2016 North Coast Monkey Jacket Red Blend, a gem of a wine from Petaluma’s Cruse Wine Co., it was almost indescribable. A puzzling wine about as unique as they come. The wine, like Michael himself, has enough charisma to impress your in-laws or a date, and it might even elicit a smile from a seasoned wine critic. At the same time, it’s light enough on the palate to enjoy with friends, and deserves a place on the table all winter long, especially with soups and curries. It’s bright and buoyant - a cherry festival in a glass - set in a wilderness of earthy tones. The finish is gripy and complex, and has you pouring another one before you know it.

Michael Cruse is getting a reputation. The San Francisco Chronicle bestowed their “Winemaker of the year” award upon him just this past winter. He is probably best known for his crazy-popular “Ultramarine,” the label for Cruse’s Champagne-method sparkling wines. Inside of three vintages – which is no time at all - Ultramarine started showing up just about everywhere: on restaurant wine lists at high price mark-ups, in “trophy” shots on social media feeds, and in the hands of high-profile buyers and collectors. Here was grower Champagne made in America: authentic, hard to come by, and highly praised by both conventional and natural wine enthusiasts and critics alike.

But it’s the Cruse Wine Company wines that best express who Michael Cruse is as a winemaker. Against a landscape that often feels dominated by either top-shelf Cabernet or acidic European emulations, the Cruse wines aim to re-imagine what California table wine can be: fruity, quaffable, and affordable. Wines that are intensely loyal to their California origins, not pretending to be anything else. And Monkey Jacket is one such wine.

The Monkey Jacket blend is a mixture of nine vineyards, around 75% of the vines are 70 years of age and dry-farmed (meaning no irrigation). One of the principal, most exciting grapes in this blend is Valdiguié (Val-dih-jhee-ay), a grape that plays a crucial part in the history of the Napa Valley – and with special significance for the Wine Fellas. Valdiguié is primarily grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, generally known by the alias Gros Auxerrios. For most of the Twentieth Century (in California), Valdiguié was known as “Napa Gamay,” and it provided the base for many wines taking after the style of France’s Beaujolais. While there were once well over a thousand acres of Valdiguié in Napa, only 21 acres remain today. In fact, there are currently less than 300 acres planted in all of California.

Two generations ago, Wine Fella Ivan Schoch planted Napa Gamay blocks in his Napa Valley vineyards in westerly Rutherford & Oakville. The grapes were in high demand in Napa Valley’s early days, used by many major houses. They have all since been ripped out, though, so Monkey Jacket hit home for us as a tale of past & present, with bittersweet historical significance. The Valdiguié in this blend comes from a 60-year-old, organic, dry-farmed vineyard in Calistoga, at Napa Valley’s northern tip; and also from a 70-year-old dry-farmed vineyard just east of Ukiah in Mendocino County, near the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. The grape makes an easy drinking wine that’s fresh and vibrant and, when grown properly (as in this case), it reveals a wonderfully fruity, floral dimension to boot. As the Chronicle said, “It’s a nostalgic throwback to the jug-wine era” - fruity, kooky, and nothing but pleasure.

    the hard facts

  • Varieties
    Petite Sirah
    & Rhone Varieties
  • Country
    United States
  • Region
    North Coast
  • Vineyards
    Redwood Valley
    Eaglepoint Ranch
    Alder Springs
    Charles Heintz
  • Farming
    Dry Farmed
  • Vintage
  • Fermentation Tank
  • Yeasts
  • Aged In
    Neutral Oak Élevage
  • Malolactic Done
  • Clarification/Filtration
  • Production
    850 Cases
  • Serving Temp.
  • Featured In Club?
    Members Received
    First Release

The other main portions of the Monkey Jacket blend are Carignan and Tannat. The Carignan is from two sites: 90-year-old vines from Rose wood vineyards in Mendocino and 128-year-old vines from Evangelho in Antioch. The Tannat comes from the famed Alder Springs vineyard in cooler climate Mendocino. Tannat is a grape that adds viscosity, but it isn’t heavy in this case. There’s also a splash of Syrah from Charles Heintz Vineyard in Western Sonoma County, to add some aromatic appeal and depth of fruit; and there’s also a dash of the variety St. Laurent from the Ricci Vineyard in Carneros, which contributes a farmyardy edge and popping acidity.

The remaining fraction is a field blend of heritage varieties (a vineyard of mixed blacks – mostly Petite Sirah, with small amounts of Counoise, Grenache, Syrah, and Mondeuse Noire) grown organically at the Eagle Point Ranch high above Ukiah in Mendocino county. These stronger varieties give the wine its backbone. The synergy of these diverse terroirs showcases the beauty of Northern California, accessible and affordable.

Michael Cruse hand-harvests the fruit and ferments it separately through primary fermentation. Once pressed, the wine is pre-blended in tank before it goes into old barrels and concrete for ageing. Generally speaking, most winemakers do their blending after aging and just before bottling, but Michael applies his blending magic early on, giving his wines more time to meld together and become complete.

Fermentation is allowed to occur spontaneously with indigenous “wild” yeast strains before manual punch-downs begin. After approximately 7 days on the skins, the wine is lightly pressed and moved from concrete to older French Oak barrels & two large, thousand-gallon concrete tanks. The wine undergoes Malolactic fermentation naturally, with only a light sulfur addition made just before bottling. Our analysis put the wine at 48 parts per million of SO2, for a truly unmasked experience of iconic organic vineyards. And of course, our favorite part: no fining, filtration or junk!

All said, this wine is extremely exciting to drink and, quite frankly, refreshingly mesmerizing. With no perceivable oak influence, it is all about pure, fragrant fruit, mineral savor and enlivening acidity. It is lip-smackingly good. Serve it in Burgundy stems or invest in some Gabriel-Glas “one for all” glasses, aiming for a cool temperature between 56°-59°, you can even leave it in your fridge and take it out 15-minutes before consuming.

This wine goes fast. Cruse Wine Co. is a genuine cult producer right in our backyard, and it is nothing to take lightly. At $27 a bottle you won’t be able to get enough, and after a purchase of six bottles, we’ll include the shipping.


Wine Fellas

    Food Pairings

  • Paleo Bacon Jam and Fried Egg Burgers

    Did someone say bacon jam fried egg burger? This paleo style burger is the perfect compliment for Michael Cruse's Monkey Jacket Red Blend.

  • Chicken Curry with Cauliflower

    Not that curry is ever out of season for us...but it's that time of year again. Curry & this blend spearheaded by Valdiguié will knock your socks!

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